KZN Health has welcomed a controversial recent Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) ruling that Gauteng Health will no longer have to fork out large cash sums for negligence at state medical facilities. The Mercury reports that in terms of the ruling, future medical needs for victims of poor treatment can be covered by “payment in kind”.
Although this ruling applies only to future cases in Gauteng, the new system of compensation for damages suffered at state facilities could spread to other provinces.
KZN Health spokesperson Agiza Hlongwane said the increase in medico-legal claims was a global phenomenon that remained a serious concern for the department, as it put severe pressure on its already inadequate budget. During the 2018/19 financial year, a total of 450 new medico-legal claims were received, which increased the total number of such cases to above 2,600.
“This is money that ought to be rather spent on treating patients and improving health outcomes in the province,” he said. Hlongwane said the department had “drawn strength’ from the recent case law, which empowered it not to settle cases where continued care for an affected patient could be proven.
Durban attorney Michael Friedman, who specialises in medical negligence claims, said he thought it was wrong that victims had to probably go back for treatment to the same institution that caused the damage in the first place. Friedman said, in addition, nothing appeared to have been done over the last several years to improve treatment so that these claims did not arise.
In response to the allegation that the increased rate of medico-legal claims was a result of the unethical practice of touting by certain law firms, Friedman told The Mercury: “The Legal Practice Council in KZN has said time and time again, bring complaints and they will be dealt with. As far as I know, no complaints against KZN attorneys have been lodged for unprofessional practice.”Full The Mercury report Judgment